When the summer sun starts shining and the evenings get longer, people are naturally more active and motivated to exercise. Inspired by Wimbledon and The British Open people dust off their tennis racquets and golf clubs and resolve to improve their golf handicap or nail their tennis serve! But while the enthusiasm is great, sudden bursts of exertion and overuse of certain muscles can lead to sports injuries, not what anyone wants when they are so keen!
Tennis and golfers elbow are common injuries to the tendons attaching the forearm muscles to the bone at the elbow. They are both overuse injuries that are caused by any activity that requires repetitive motion of the arm and wrist. The difference between the two conditions lies in where the elbow is inflamed.
Tennis elbow, aka lateral epicondylitis, affects the tendons attached to the outer side of the elbow, which are connected in turn to the muscles that extend the wrist backward and straighten the fingers. Symptoms include:
- Pain that radiates from the outside of the elbow to the forearm and wrist.
- Tenderness on the outside of the elbow
- Weakness in the forearm or a weak grip
- Pain when gripping or twisting things
Plumbers, carpenters, painters, and cooks are prone to tennis elbow due to the repetitive actions in their jobs.
Golfers elbow, medial epicondylitis, affects tendons connected to the inner side of your elbow, which are attached to the muscles that flex the wrist and contract the fingers when gripping something. Symptoms include:
- Pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow
- Pain that radiates down the arm from the inside of your elbow
- Weakness in your hand or wrist
- Numbness or tingling in the ring and little fingers
- Pain when twisting or gripping things
- Pain when you flex your wrist
A lot of people struggle with the length of time it takes to recover from their tennis and golfers elbow. Unfortunately it can take a few months of treatment and recovery before patients are ready to get back to the repetitive activity that caused the injury in the first place.
Ice & Medication
Within the first 24 to 28 hours after the beginning of intense pain, it is vital to focus on reducing the inflammation. The more inflammation can be reduced, the less pain there will be and some mobility in the elbow is more likely to be retained in the early recovery phase. Either wrap the elbow in a towel and immerse in to a bowl of ice, or put ice in a towel and hold against the elbow. Do this for between 10-30 minutes at a time. Take anti-inflammatory medication at regular intervals.
Immediately stop doing anything that requires gripping, lifting, extension, or fine muscle control.
One of the best ways to treat the pain is self-massage, Lay the forearm out on a supporting surface in front of the body and gently massage the sore tissue. This may cause a small amount of additional pain but should also induce a relaxing sensation and it prevents any stiffening tissue from building up around the injury.
Braces & Supports
Wearing an elbow brace will support the joint and avoid the stress that caused the injury in the first place. The Incrediwear elbow brace reduces inflammation, increases range of motion and decreases pain.
When the pain has reduced and the elbow has begun to strengthen it is time to start recovery exercises. It is key to stretch the forearm muscles to reduce strain on the inflamed tendons. Stop the exercise if pain is felt.
- Golfer’s Elbow Stretch - Start with the arm and elbow straight out in front of the body. Take the wrist backwards using your other hand until a mild stretch is felt. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 4 times.
- Wrist Curls - Hold a light weight in the hand with palm facing down. Bend the wrist and let the hand go down so that the palm is facing the knee. Reverse the movement and lift the dumbbell so the palm faces forward. Lower it slowly back down and repeat 10 times.
- Tennis Ball Squeeze - Hold a tennis ball in the hand and squeeze it as hard as possible Hold the squeeze for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
A golf club or racket that's too heavy can also trigger these injuries, so make sure the correct equipment is being used. Wear an elbow brace while playing to support the muscles and joint, and don’t continue to play if the symptoms flare up again!